Mining bees (the correct scientific name for this genus being ‘Andrena’)
are one of the largest groups of solitary bees. It is believed to
consist of over 1,300 known species of bees across the world.
One of the most common Andrena species is the tawny mining bee – Andrena fulva, pictured here. Adults are an endearing little creature, the females being reddish orange in colour, with black undersides, whilst males are duller in colour, and smaller than females.
In general, they seem to prefer to build nests in
sandy soil, although some species are apparently less fussy, whilst others are more selective. The Ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria is thought to prefer sloping sites, whereas the Grey-patched mining bee, Andrena
nitida will nest in formal lawns but also sheep-grazed hillsides.
Evidence of them may be seen if you come across little mounds of earth in lawns, borders, or even in pots, resembling worm casts.
Nests will often consist of one small, main tunnel, with perhaps 5 or so branches, each containing an egg cell. The tunnel will usually be about 20cms – 40cms deep, and the entrance is about the size of a 10p coin.
The nests will not cause any damage in soil or in gardens, and indeed, they should be welcomed. They rarely, if ever sting, and provide an excellent pollination service. The use of pesticides in lawns to deal with them is not recommended.
Nests are very short lived, do
not damage plants, and many lawn pesticides are actually harmful to
Adults emerge from hibernation in Spring, having hibernated through the winter. After mating, the female seeks a place to make a nest. Like the other female solitary bees, she sets about making egg cells: in each one she lays an egg and provides both pollen and nectar on which the individual larva can feed.
Each individual egg cell is made, provisioned, then sealed up before the next cell is made.
She will usually lay about 5 eggs.
The adults are active
for 6 – 8 weeks of the year, and the new adults that emerge will need to
hibernate over winter again, to re-emerge in Spring. Although solitary,
females do sometimes construct nests close to each other, and may be
re-occupied year after year if undisturbed.
Some common questions about mining bees:
Are mining bees aggressive or dangerous?
What do mining bees eat?
Answer: Like other bees, they eat nectar and pollen from flowers, but the foraging preferences (the particular flowers they like to forage from) will differ depending on the species. Some are generalists (meaning they will feed from many types of flowers) whilst others are specialists, feeding only from select flower species.
How big are mining bees?
Answer: It depends on the species and the country. They may range from a few millimeters to almost an inch in some parts of the world.
How do I get rid of mining bees?
Answer: Why do that? They are not dangerous and bees need all the help they can get. Why not leave them alone?
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